Voters could decide 3-mill tax Dec. 7

Published 10:35 pm Wednesday, September 15, 2010

SELMA — A vote on whether to increase taxes by 3 mills for the Selma School System won’t occur until Dec. 7 at the earliest and that money will go into the school’s general coffers.

The Selma City School Board received the news Wednesday night during a called board meeting.

If passed by voters who live in the Selma City School System, the 3 mills, $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value, would generate about $370,000 annually.

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Questions were raised during the school board meeting Wednesday about how the money would be used. At one time, school officials had said the money would be used to help pay off the debt of construction of the new Selma High School. Earlier this week, school officials said during a radio program, the money would be used to help operate the schools.

Interim superintendent Don Jefferson told school board members Wednesday the money generated from the tax would go to the Selma City Schools.

Jefferson said the school system has the money to build a new high school. “The new high school is going to be built,” he said.

John Kelly, who represents the Dallas County Board of Commissioners, told the school board the county doesn’t have enough time to prepare for the election by Nov. 2.

On Monday, school board President Henry Hicks and Jefferson presented a resolution to the commission, but commissioners recessed the meeting until 4 p.m. Thursday for the board to consider more information about the proposal.

Kelly said the county learned from the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office that absentee balloting must begin Friday to allow ballots ample time to reach soldiers overseas. The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act was enacted by congress in 1986.

In 2009 the law was amended to establish new voter registration and absentee ballot procedures states must follow in all federal elections. The Nov. 2 general election is the first time states must follow the new rules, according to Kelly.

The county would have to get absentee ballots with the school tax question on them by Friday, according to Kelly.

“Obviously, we cannot print ballots by this Friday,” he said.

To hold a special election Dec. 7 would cost the county about $40,000. The school system is not required by law to pick up any of that cost.

Some school board members were not happy about the change in date. Board members who support the measure said they wanted to hold the election the same day as the general election because they believed more voters would participate.

If the election could have been held on Nov. 2, reprinting of the ballots would have cost the county about $27,000, said Dallas County Probate Judge Kim Ballard.

The new election date would also allow ample time for printing ballots and gaining U.S. Department of Justice approval for the election. The Justice Department must have 60 days in which to consider a special election.

Although the election would not have been held separately if allowed Nov. 2, it would have still been a special election because the ballot changed to include the taxing measure.

Hicks said he and Jefferson would attend the Commission meeting at 4 p.m. and hand over a request for the election.